By Erin Viner
“The Karish rig is a strategic asset of the State of Israel and is intended to extract the energy resources and natural gas in the State of Israel’s Economic Zone (EEZ] and to advance Israel’s ‘green economy,’” said a joint statement by Israel’s Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, Minister of Foreign Affairs Yair Lapid, and Minister of Energy Karin Elharrar obtained by TV7.
“The rig is located in Israeli territory, several kilometers south of the area over which negotiations are being conducted between the State of Israel and the State of Lebanon, mediated by the United States,” underscored the statement, which stressed that “the rig will not pump gas from the disputed territory.”
They further asserted that “the State of Israel prioritizes the protection of its strategic assets and is prepared to defend them and the security of its infrastructure, all in accordance with its rights.”
United States-mediated talks between Israel and Lebanon to delineate offshore boundaries in the Mediterranean Sea have been stalled for some time. The neighboring states, which are in a formal state of war, began a series of negotiations in October 2020 at a United Nations peacekeeper base in the southern Lebanese city of Naqoura.
Resolution of the dispute between the old foes could lead to Lebanon being able to unlock potentially valuable reserves in the gas-rich area that could help it to overcome a devastating financial crisis amid rising sectarian violence among the impoverished population. The maritime border dispute has held up that exploration.
The Israeli Ministers called on Lebanon “to accelerate negotiations on the maritime border,” pointing out that the location of gas-based energy sources would “greatly assist” the economy and citizens in the Arab Republic.
It is in the interest of the State of Lebanon to advance the dialogue on this matter,” said Israel’s top defense, foreign affairs and energy officials, who further expressed “hope that this will occur.”